Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its many different types of guns, ammo, and shooting sports. Last week we talked about the direction that the rimfire industry might be going and while we were talking about odd designs in the modern age, that got me thinking about quite an odd design that came out of the post-World War II era – the BSA Ralock. BSA or Birmingham Small Arms brought the Ralock rifle to the scene in 1947—an entirely consumer-focused rifle that was a blend of top-notch quality, unique design, and a dash of machine gun inspiration. Let’s dive into what makes this vintage firearm tick, from its funky features and limited production history to where you might find one in the wild today.
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The Rimfire Report: The Complex British-Made BSA Ralock
A Short-Lived Curiosity
Manufactured by BSA from 1947 to mid-1951, the Ralock aimed to elbow its way into the semi-automatic .22 rimfire rifle market. It came in two flavors: the S model, using .22 Short cartridges and making its debut in 1947, and the T model chambered in 22LR which was produced from 1949 to mid-1951. With only 5,696 rifles in total, the Ralock wasn’t exactly a mass-market phenomenon. Its lack of major success in the commercial market was likely because of its complicated design which made the rifle a manufacturing nightmare at the time. It’s anyone’s guess how much they cost back in the day but some modern sales have gone for around $250.
The Ralock wasn’t your average direct-blowback rimfire rifle. The BSA Ralock featured a semi-automatic blow-back hammerless breech block design. The action design features a blow-back breech block shaped like a nearly quarter-circle segment. This block pivots at its base and gets locked back, simultaneously cocking the rifle, when the integrated trigger guard and underlever are pulled down. This action also reveals a compartment beneath the rifle where the fired empty cases are stored. I don’t know if this technically makes the Ralock an open-bolt gun or not. The hammer is the bolt in this case and it’s cocked back before firing so I guess it’s up to interpretation? The video below will give you a better understanding of what exactly is happening inside of the BSA Ralock:
The fact that the rifle retained the spent casings from the magazines made it an environmentally conscious firearm or a really quiet firearm as has been seen with some heavily modified examples in the UK featuring suppressors. The spent casings were ejected by pushing down and forward on the trigger guard that acted somewhat like a lever-action. This movement would open up the compartment where the spent casings were and allow them to fall freely out of the gun.
The .22 Short models were capable of holding an additional two rounds over the 22LR versions which could hold ten in the internal side-loading magazine tube. The stock concealed both the magazine loading port on the right-hand side and the removable magazine spring assembly at the rear which presumably allowed you to unload the rifle without having to discharge all the rounds. That’s another weird thing about the rifle – it had no charging handle and instead, the lever-action cocking handle sent the hammer back before its first firing.
Few Living Examples
The BSA Ralock is hard to come by these days. There isn’t a single example I’ve been able to find of one for sale other than a few archived auction sites here and there. With only about 5,500 rifles made, and all of them produced in the UK, very few of them probably made their way stateside and with the way firearms laws progressed over the rest of the 20th century, many of the remaining examples of the BSA Ralock probably met an early demise.
Some of the examples seen on social media have been heavily modified and fitted with lots of cool optics and accessories, including suppressors which are much easier to come by in the UK. While it would be cool to get a revival of these really unique guns in the modern age for collectors and curious rimfire junkies, Birmingham Small Arms, unfortunately, went defunct in 1973. In the company’s 112-year history, they made everything from cars to bicycles, ammunition, firearms, and even motorcycles. The BSA Ralock was just one unique example in a vast sea of products that the company produced over the century.
A Truly Unique Design
In the grand scheme of firearms, the Ralock isn’t just a vintage relic; it’s a truly one-of-a-kind rimfire rifle design that is likely never to see the light of day again. Its radial locking action, enclosed receiver, and limited production add an element of exclusivity for owners and collectors of the rifle. The Ralcok is also another aged example of the takedown rifle that has features beyond the takedown mechanism that make it unique, unlike other rimfire examples of the era.
One has to wonder that if the BSA Ralock had just been released a few years later and was more heavily spread to the American market, it might have upset the success that the Ruger 10/22 would eventually make just 20 years later. Of course, I’d like to hear your opinion on this unique rifle and if you’ve got any first-hand experience with one, I’d love to hear that too. Thanks as always for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you all again next week!
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